Demonstrating Understanding of UbD

Understanding “Understanding” & the UbD Framework

To be successful at developing units using Understanding by Design, there are a few things people should “understand” before they engage with the UbD templates. This page is designed to help you with these preliminary understandings.  Please use the resources and recommended activities in whatever ways suit you.

Your learning is what matters so choose whatever path best suits you to achieve the goal:

a performance that demonstrates that you understand how the components of the UbD template work together as an integrated whole to promote students’ understanding and transfer of new information.

To illustrate why the learning of this page has been organized as it has – and also to employ the UbD components, here are the more detailed goals for the lesson.

Transfer Goal: Teachers will be able to independently use their learning to design units that promote student understanding and transfer of new information, not just knowledge acquisition or routine skill building.

Enduring Understanding: UbD provides an integrated conceptual framework where the components work together to help students develop greater understanding of new information and the ability to transfer this learning to new and authentic situations.

Essential Questions: How does UbD work?  Why do UbD?

Key Knowledge and Skill:

Know the meaning of the terms:

  • “Backward Design”
  • The 6 facets of Understanding: application, explanation, interpretation, empathy, self-knowledge, perspective
  • Prior Learnings / Connections,
  • Stage 1: Desired Results – Key Understandings
  • Stage 1 Section Headings: Transfer / Meaning / Acquisition of knowledge and Skills (A-M-T)
  • Transfer Goal
  • Established Goals (curriculum and other goals)
  • Meaning section: Enduring Understandings, Essential Questions
  • Acquisition Section: Knowledge, Skills
  • Stage 2: Assessment Evidence
  • Performance Task, Evaluative criteria
  • GRASPS acronym
  • Other Evidence
  • Stage 3: Learning Plan
  • Pre-assessments
  • WHERETO acronym

Skills – be skilled at:

  • Finding / accessing online resources
  • Locating / logging-in to UbD templates or software (e.g., Word templates or Edutect Unit Planner)

Other Evidence

Demonstrate your knowledge of the key UbD terminology by using it correctly.

Performance Task

Each of the tasks below require a demonstration of understanding. As a way to illustrate how the different facets of understanding can be framed into performance tasks, you can choose from a task requiring explanation, application, interpretation or self-knowledge.  Each also follow the GRASPS approach to framing performance assessments.

Evaluative Criteria: The same formative assessment criteria / rubric will be used regardless of the task you choose.

Demonstrate Understanding through: Explanation

You are a teacher (Role) working with a smaller group of colleagues (Audience, Situation) who teach in different departments and year levels. Your task is to help them understand “how UbD works” (Standards) by showing the integrated nature of the three stages of Understanding by Design and their components (Goal). Demonstrate your understanding graphically (a few slides, a graphic organizer, a flowchart, etc.) to help your colleagues see the connections among UbD’s components (Performance / Product).  You will want to make sure you explain how Understanding and Application are different from “knowledge of” and “skill at” learning different subjects and how UbD framework supports the more advanced learning (Standards). Also anticipate some of the objections or misconceptions colleagues might have by listing them on a slide (Standards) and have an intelligent response to address the objection or misconception.

Demonstrate Understanding through: Application

Using a UbD template (Word doc or Edutect Unit Planner) develop a draft UbD unit (Product/Performance). As an educational leader (Role) you will share this unit with colleagues both within and outside your content area (Audience) in a PLC meeting or informal sharing (Situation).  The sections of the template that must be completed are: Transfer Goal, Understanding, Essential Question, Knowledge, Skills, Performance Task following the GRASPS format and a brief outline of the Learning Plan with at least one item for each heading of the acronym WHERETO (Standards). In completing this draft you will have a better understanding of how the elements of the UbD framework work together (Goal).

Demonstrate Understanding through: Interpretation

You are an educational analyst (Role) whose task is to interpret why the UbD Template evolved from version one to its current 2.0 version and share your insights with fellow analysts (Audience) in a Professional Learning Community (Situation). Your interpretation may be a formal report or simply illustrating the difference using hard copies of the two templates (Product/Performance). Pay particular attention to the newly added components in the the 2.0 template and provide a sound rationale for why Wiggins and McTighe thought it imperative to include. Your rationale must include how the new elements relate to and support the earlier elements and, taken all together, further advance the goals of UbD to promote student understanding and transfer (Standards).  The purpose of this task is to move from “knowing” what the components of UbD are to “understanding” how they are connected and work together (Goal).

Demonstrate Understanding through: Self-knowledge

As a professional educator (Role) you have many strengths, reasons for your pedagogical strategies and areas where you know you can still develop your expertise (Situation).  In a professional reflection (Performance / Product), you should consider how the UbD framework supports your current practice and reflect on how it might challenge you to do things differently (Standards).  Also, identify where you feel your understanding of the framework is “shaky” or incomplete in terms of seeing why all the components and there and how they fit together (Standards). You will write this reflective essay for yourself, but also for your peers who are also learning about UbD (Audience).  The purpose of this task is to help you understand the UbD framework and to identify areas where you personally feel you’d like to pursue more professional learning (Goal).

Learning Plan

Because the learning goals are very focused (a single task, not a unit) and the learners are adults, a problem-based learning approach will be used.  So, rather than step through a series of activities, you will be guided by the learning needs (acquiring the vocabulary and developing the concept of UbD) and choose from the resources provided.  You may choose to work individually or in a group (such as a Professional Learning Community or ad hoc team).  Thus you have a choice in the Time (when you do the learning), Tasks (which performance task), Team (or not) and Tools (verbal, software, hand-written, etc.).  This also is an example of increasing autonomy to promote learners’ intrinsic motivation.


Use the resources below as well as any others you find online or in your school’s professional library.  Also, feel free to work with colleagues to pool your learning and develop your understanding and master.